Originally written for the San Diego Chapter of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of America, 20 March 2006. Updated on 11 April 2012.


Born of a farmer turned naval machinist and housewife from Kovno, Lithuania, who immigrated to Baltimore in about 1906, Bill Nary was first-generation born in the USA (San Francisco) on June 20, 1915. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was about seven.

Vallejo was next. In 1930, his father John played the sweepstakes and won $9,000, with which he bought a 55-acre Ranch at Calaveras Co. and a Packard 1930. [I guess that helps to explain Bill’s fascination with the horse races!]

Ynez Grammar School

During vacation from Ynez Grammar School, he’d walk around Midwick [pronounced ‘Middick.’] Country Club (CC) (Monterey Park, Alhambra). At the 4th hole, there was a ditch where he’d look for golf balls. One time at the 4th hole, one of the members saw him, and asked him to carry his bag. He got paid 90 cents for 14 holes. Midwick was a wealthy club. On Mondays, there were no jobs for loops (caddies) because the course was closed to members. So at age 11, he started playing golf on Mondays. His first score for 18 holes was 103; his second was 92. Never having had a formal lesson, he taught himself while playing. He found a golf magazine that had a series of photos of Horton Smith’s swing and emulated it.

Alhambra High School (Graduated 1933)

At Alhambra High School, he was on the Golf Team, which finished second in the Southern Conference League. He was also a high jumper for Track and Field. He still caddied; sometimes he’d walk a mile to a mile and a half to see if he could get hired for a loop.

While still in high school (age 16-17), Bill played in local tournaments in Los Angeles—Riviera CC; Wilshire CC. In the last tourney at Riviera, he had the best round within 3 strokes better than anyone in the tourney—67--and went from19th to 3rd place. He graduated high school in 1933, and in 1996, got inducted into Alhambra High’s Hall of Fame.

More Caddying

Later, he caddied for a player who had polio, millionaire Frank Hixon. Bill traveled with him, and went to Canada on the Northwest Tour. Hixon was looking around for a golf course that he liked; he’d build one, and Bill would have a golf course for the rest of his life. But the man died of cancer. Bill would go to Chula Vista, CA and played golf at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego's North County, and at Pala Mesa Country Club, where he won the San Diego County Match Play Championship. He caddied for the owners of the LA Times, Phil and Harrison Chandler; for Reese Taylor who owned Bethlehem Steel; Shannon Crandall, who owned the Union Hardware store in LA; Capt Bullock-Webster, a retired Captain of the horsemen Bengal Lancers. He caddied for Hixon, Albert Einstein and Paul Mullikan (another one of the big brains in the world at the time who was in the foursome). [Einstein said, “During the golf swing, you can’t think of two things at the same time.” I.e., Einstein obviously couldn't, and needed help with his golf game!] 

Cartooning Stint at Disney Studios

While caddying at Midwick CC, players noticed that he had a talent in drawing cartoons of a golfer with a funny swing, missing the ball and cussing at it. F. M. Hunter, 73 and a left-hander, practiced in the three polo fields at Midwick. Bill gave him lessons. Hunter went up to Pebble Beach (Del Monte CC), and shot his age, just from Bill’s teaching. Hunter also knew some people at the Disney Studios on Fairfax Blvd. He wanted Bill to improve his cartooning and work for Disney. He went to the Chouinard Art Institute for about two months, and while still there, got a job at Disney as a cartoonist. He did the in-between movements of Mickey Mouse (one was The Flying Mouse). After working 8 hours every day, Bill started blinking his eyes and losing his sight and couldn’t sleep at night. So after two weeks, he quit. In his own opinion, he couldn’t draw a perfect circle like the others, so he felt he couldn’t qualify.

Back to the “Drawing Board” of Golf in Realizing his Life’s Dream of Turning Pro

Bill played in the Crosby Tournament when it was at the Rancho Santa Fe (RSF) Golf Club. He went down to San Diego looking for work. He went to Montemar Fairways, across from the Naval Training Center (NTC). Jim Ferrabee played 144 holes (8 rounds; average 90). The folks at Montemar suggested that Bill try it at Emerald Hills in La Mesa to stir up some publicity. His first round was 75; then he had a 65 or 6; his average was 70.5 (par was 72). He got the publicity; there were newspaper articles galore! Somebody came down from Rancho Santa Fe and asked if he wanted the pro job there. Affirmative!



The San Diego Union headlines read:
April 18, 1939 “Nary Captures County Open Crown by 5-Stroke Margin”
April 30, 1940 “Nary Takes County Open by 7 Strokes”

Meanwhile, the horse races were going on at Del Mar, and Bing Crosby wanted Bill to play with him every morning; then go to the races with him in the afternoon, enjoying first class seats in Bing's box at the Turf Club. He met people like Douglas Fairbanks, Fred Astaire, Dorothy Lamour, and others. He played with Johnny Weissmuller at RSF when the races weren’t going on.

The most important aspect of Bill's life at RSF were people: “The people I met had a lot to do with everything.”  So people are more important to Bill than anything. That’s been the theme of his whole life.

1940 Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

It was a windy day at the Harlingen (Texas) Open, and he had his 8-iron on the third hole to within four feet of the cup. His putt rimmed the hole and came back to the front edge of the cup. “Believe it or not,” he missed a putt that was hangin’ on the lip; less than a half-inch putt. He was entered into the famous publication.


1941-1945 U.S. NAVY

Bill got married to his first wife, June Millicent Ryan, six months before getting drafted into the Navy after Pearl Harbor in 1941. “I was a company commander for a while. Then I got on a patrol craft for 1 ½ years. (There were 120 men on a crew of a patrol craft, a small boat that scouted different areas during the war.).”  He was in the Columbia River Group. He spent a year in the print shop there along the Columbia River, around 80 miles northwest of Portland. [“I printed my own discharge papers!”] I drew pictures on stationery and printed it for all the big wigs there.


1947 Bill Has a Family During this Time: Los Angeles, CA: Daughter #1, Carole Anne Nary (who later became Carole Anne McLean; then Carole Anne Mulholland)

Bill’s first daughter, Carole Anne Nary, was born in 1947. Bill and his wife June divorced a few years later.

On the Road Again...

He was always among the first 25 money winners, at a fraction over $6,000/year. "This year [2006]," he said, "the first 67 money winners made over a million. I was born too soon! But I’ve lived my life alright. I’m happy. These days, they’re so damn serious they never talk to the gallery and never have any fun. Porky Oliver, Jimmy Demaret and I would talk with the gallery and joke with them all the time.”

He lost in a playoff for the title of the Houston Classic. He lost an 18-hole title playoff at Baton Rouge. He won $1300, tying for third at Riviera CC in the L.A. Open, and had the best round, beating out the scores of Snead, Demaret, and Hogan.

A Couple of Experiences of the Tour Bill Likes to Share

During the Baton Rouge Open on the fourth hole of the playoff against Tommy Bolt and Jack Burke, Jr., his 9-iron shot rolled 15 feet past the hole; started slowing, but then continued rolling “out o' bounds.” He teed up another ball, knocked it on the green and two-putted for a double bogey. So after birdying two of the first three holes, he was 2 up on Bolt and Burke. [This was probably 1952. Burke won it.]

Bill was closest to winning the National Open at the Merion Golf Club, East Course, Ardmore, PA in1950. 'The course wasn’t fair," he says. "On the 10th hole, the ball bounced over the green. The gallery jumped up to catch Hogan’s ball and slammed it down to the edge of the green. Hogan sank it for a birdie. For my shot, the gallery stepped aside to let the ball continue rolling. I bogeyed three of the last five holes to place eighth in the tourney. I was only three shots behind Hogan’s winning score."

1949 Cypress Point Country Club at Pebble Beach

Lefty O’Doul teamed up with Bill at the Bing Crosby Pro-Amateur Tournament. He won the tourney with a record 65, and both got their names forever embossed on the standing plaque in front of the Del Monte Hotel.  Many pros would skip the tourney if they didn’t include a purse for the pros. But it was still billed as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, from Rancho Santa Fe up to Pebble Beach. Catherine Crosby sold her part of the tourney to AT&T.

1950 Pebble Beach, CA: 1950 Filming of Follow the Sun (1951)

Bill did most of the golf shots for Dennis O’Keefe who played the part of a fictitious character in the movie, Follow the Sun (1951), about the golf life of Ben Hogan. O’Keefe was originally meant to play the part of Jimmy Demaret, but Demaret showed up to play his own part later in the movie.

Nary didn't get the job of being Dennis O'Keefe's double through O'Keefe, with whom he'd been playing at least once a week at Lakeside Golf Course in North Hollywood, but through Andrea Howard. She owned Andrea's Place, an accessory and jewelry shop in Palm Springs. She knew that Bill was playing golf with her husband, Bob Howard (son of R. S. Howard, who owned the Buick agency in Beverly Hills, and the racehorse Seabiscuit, before he owned the Howard Manor in Palm Springs.)

1950-1952 Twin Orchard Country Club, Chicago Area, IL

In 1950, Bill was the head teaching pro at Twin Orchard Country Club at Libertyville, IL, 12 miles from Chicago, and a couple of miles from Lake Zurich, while Babe Didrikson was the playing pro. It was an exclusive Jewish Country Club, where he met Margaret Ann Koch, a debutante. She was a waitress there, working her way through college, for her master’s in music at Northwestern University. Bill would have breakfast in the restaurant, and always asked for sweet rolls. The head cook didn’t like to provide sweet rolls, so Margaret snuck them in for Bill. Bill married Margaret in 1952. George Zaharias (who later married Babe Didrikson) promised him $200 + lessons. He never got it; so he quit.

1952 El Paso, TX Open: 60 Round Record

February 9, 1952; El Paso Open. Bill shot an amazing 60 during the third round of the tournament: 68, 73, 60, 73. Al Brosch was the first to get a 60 in PGA play; Bill was second. That record held until 1977, when Al Geiberger had a 59.

During Bill's 60 round, for 18 holes, he had 19 putts. During the last nine holes, he had seven putts. That record held until 2003!

1957 Tucson, AZ: Daughter #2, Catherine Ann Nary

Daughter Catherine Ann Nary (also known as "Cate" and "Cathy") was born! Bill decided to settle down somewhere; to be a family man.



Was first-ever pro at Four Hills Country Club, but the budding family didn’t like it. [Blame it on all the bugs there!]



For a short time, Bill didn’t play much golf  because it would cost money. So he took a job at Aztec Produce Company, driving a truck, putting away frozen foods, delivering produce, and taking orders for the Biltmore and Ambassador Hotels. He had to get up about 2:00 a.m. and work until 3:00 p.m. Then, in 1960, he got a call from Russ Osgood, asking if he’d like to be the first head pro at Bonita Golf Club (BGC). “When do you want me to start?” The young family moved into an apartment in Chula Vista, CA, in San Diego's south county.



His “home” in San Diego after Montemar Fairways (La Mesa, CA area) has always been at Bonita Golf Club, where he has excelled as a golf teacher. His star pupils have been Barbara Barrow (formerly on the LPGA Tour), Kelly Benton, Marianne Breton, Louise Bruce (formerly on the LPGA Tour); Kevin Buda, Rick Hingle, Susan Rapp, Barbara Rice (amateur and professional tour standout; now teaching pro), Debbie Skinner (formerly on the LPGA Tour; now teaching pro); and Curt Worley.

1963 San Diego, CA: Son #1, John William Nary

His only son John William Nary was born in 1963—a native San Diegan!

1964-1969 Player of the Year

Bill was honored by the San Diego County Chapter PGA of America for winning all the pro-am events during those years. It was during this time that the growing family found a home to buy, still in the Chula Vista, CA area.



After the Bonita course closed in 1977 to become the Plaza Bonita shopping mall, he went to Cottonwood Country Club as a teaching pro there. He also taught at Stardust Country Club (now known as Riverwalk Golf Club) in Mission Valley. It was a rather long drive to both courses from Chula Vista. He soon became the teaching pro at the Short Course at Las Palmas, in National City, where he got his son John his first job there, washing golf balls and doing other odd jobs around the course.



Then when Bonita Golf Club reopened in 1980, Bill was invited to return to the course. So he did! He taught there through June 2011, giving golf and  history lessons to his pupils! Among them was a special family, including Jesús Macarty the son (since age 6; who now works at Bonita GC and coaches the Cuyamaca College men's team), and the Macarty Ladies: Leticia, also affectionately known to Bill as "Mamacita" ("I admired Mr. Nary so much that I wanted my kids to learn from him, have his love for life and his passion for golf. I'm so glad that golf is in each of my kids' lives."); Lety (since age 6; played and served as captain for the Coronado High School girls' team); and Neyla (since age 5; plays for Coronado High School and manages the boys' team).

1992-1997 San Diego and Orange Counties +3 more Grandkids: John Nary and Karin Kruse were married in 1992, and from 1993-1997, contributed to the family name by adding three boys to Bill's lineage.

William Robert (better known as "Will") (1993), Jacob Christopher (1994), & Samuel Paul (better known as “Sam”) (1997)--all added to the joy of the entire Nary family!

2000 June 30 (Friday): Bill Nary Day in the City of Chula Vista

Bonita Golf Club held the Bill Nary 85th Birthday Tournament in honor of—Bill’s 85th Birthday. Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton presented a plaque to Nary, proclaiming June 30, 2000 as “Bill Nary Day” in honor of his 85th birthday, and gave him the Key to the City.

2005 June 27: Bill Nary Scores 90—Years, That Is

Bonita Golf Club hosted another Bill Nary Birthday Tournament in honor of his 90th Birthday on June 20, and for his gifts to Golf. Ben Higgins, Sports Anchor at the ABC affiliate 10News, emceed for the special dinner and awards program that evening. Russ and Bill Osgood presented Bill with a special plaque commemorating the event. Chris and Mickey Riley thanked him for “being a PGA Tour Pioneer.” As a special surprise, Byron Nelson, 93, sent him a birthday card, which was presented to him by daughter Cathy. It was attended by friends, family and many of Bill’s pupils, past and present, who shared their favorite stories of him.

2010 June 20: Bill Nary--95: Alive and Thriving!

Bill's 95th Birthday Bash included an invitation to have a beer with Bill after a round of golf. The Southern California Chapter PGA honored him with a framed letter, congratulating him for accomplishing this milestone; for all his years as an honorary life member of the PGA; and for his many contributions to the world of golf. They also gave him a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. All participants signed a huge Bill Nary Birthday Banner wishing him well, which was a wonderful keepsake of the event.